Strawberry farmer voices support for Agua Hedionda project - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Strawberry farmer voices support for Agua Hedionda project

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - The Agua Hedionda 85/15 plan was approved by the Carlsbad City Council last week, but the company that owns the Westfield Malls is vowing to fight the development. 

On Monday, the man who currently farms the land stepped into the firestorm. 

Jimmy Ukegawa, a third generation farmer who prefers to avoid the spotlight, said he had no choice but to speak out in order to save his family's farm. 

"It's really simple. Don't sign the petition, and we can stay in business. Stand with me and the people of Carlsbad. The 85/15 plan keeps us here, keeps us growing fresh produce," said Ukegawa. 

Ukegawa extended his support of the proposed Agua Hedionda 85/15 plan. The plan preserves 85-percent of the land along the South shore of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. 

That's 176 acres with miles of new trails, picnic areas, and an environmental education program. 

The plan also includes 26-acres, or 15-percent of the land, that will be used for an open-air shopping, dinning and entertainment promenade. A Nordstrom store is expected to also open. 

The plan was approved by the Carlsbad City Council by a 5 to 0 vote. The plan would preserve Ukegawa's farm, allowing him to continue leasing the land, currently owned by SDG&E. 

"The unanimous decision of our City Council brought tears to my eyes because it allows my family to be sustainable," said Ukegawa. 

Now, a group called Citizens for North County is trying to overturn the council's decision. 

"We are gathering ten percent [of registered voters' signatures] in order to put this project to a vote of the people. We strongly believe in a democratic process," said Amanda Mascia, a volunteer for Citizens for North County. 

Mascia also said her group has no affiliation with Westfield Corporation who is also fighting 85/15, and owns the existing shopping plaza in Carlsbad. 

Mayor Matt Hall wrote a letter to Wesfield's chairman, urging the company not to fight 85/15. 

Westfield released a statement that reads in part: 

"We are disappointed by the efforts of Caruso Affiliated and its supporters to fabricate stories about Westfield, and creating a 'straw man' so as to divert attention away from the legitimate concerns of the citizens of Carlsbad and North County.
 
The statement from Citizens for North County speaks for itself.  We applaud their transparency as well as their passion for their community.  They deserve respect and not to be dismissed.
 
Despite the use of the Westfield name in false statements by Caruso and others, Westfield is not providing any support, financial or otherwise, to the referendum drive.  Further, the company never intended to engage in the referendum process on this matter.
 
As stated before the City Council, Westfield's position is that all projects should follow the same rules, that the Caruso project should have been required to undergo a full CEQA review and we believe the analysis that was done was deficient, flawed and/or inaccurate in numerous ways.  Caruso Affiliated has pursued this alternative as a tactic to evade proper environmental impact and other review simply to on save on costs and increase its own profit.  This is certainly not what the initiative process was intended for." 

The non-profit group has 30 days to collect signatures from ten percent of registered Carlsbad voters. The group is aiming for 10,000 signatures. 

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